"I make pain and happiness look alike. It's called survival" --Treka L. House
About three years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet a young lady by the name of Kourtney Vanslyke, who would later become my sister. I have had the pleasure of having many delightful interactions with her, never guessing for a second, that she had experienced anything as devastating as sexual assault. It just further proved that we are able to cover up what we need to, in order to survive and thrive within the society created around us. Recently, as I was scrolling through my Facebook timeline, I noticed a post from her. It was her announcing her new website, Through the Storm, which is aimed at sexual assault victims. She decided to use a tragic event in her life to help, heal and inspire those who are living their nightmare in silence. Everyone knows at least one person, either male or female, who has been sexually assaulted. Unfortunately for me, I know quite a few. I was almost assaulted twice myself and once by a family member. Fortunately, the heavens were protecting me and I'm grateful. Many of which, have decided to keep their violation quiet. They don’t want to be subjected to the scrutiny or the insensitivity of people, who are not able to empathize with a situation that they haven’t had the misfortune of experiencing. Contrary to twisted beliefs, sexual assault victims have no color, gender, status, size or religion. There is not a person alive exempt from this or any other kind of abuse. As a society, we should be compassionate toward the victims of sexual assault and to make it comfortable for them to come forward. I hope that Kourtney’s story gives someone the courage to finally let go of their secret, in an effort to find healing. There is absolutely nothing for you to be ashamed of, you were violated and that is no reason to be punished.
I respect your decision to come forward with your story. I would love it if you told me readers who you think you are and why?
Kourtney:I am just a young woman who has been broken due to rape and molestation. I decide to speak out, because I was tired of carrying around this baggage that has caused me so much pain.
If it’s not too invasive, would you care to share your exact story?
Kourtney: It started when I was about six. The person used to live with us, and it started off with little things that I didn't even notice. He would always touch me for unnecessary reasons. I then noticed that he would come in my bedroom every morning and kiss me when I was asleep. When I finally realized what was happening, I told my grandfather. He thought nothing of it, since this man was my uncle. He would take me places with him. While we were in the car, he would slam on breaks and then throw his hand out pretending to protect me; but was really using that time to feel me up. One night, he entered my room and began running his hands up and down my back. He then started pulling my pants down. My body was numb, I felt so paralyzed that I couldn't scream for help or anything. After that, he used his fingers to penetrate me. Still crippled by what was happening, all I could do was scream for dear life in my head. Next thing I know, I feel him on top of me and he begins kissing me. He penetrated my innocent body with his penis and ironically I got a burst of strength. My arm flinched and I checked under the bed for my tennis racket. He felt my movements and he became scared. He ran out of my room, and I sat there and cried. I was in shock for hours, I just couldn't move until the next morning.
How were you acquainted with the person who violated you? Did he remain in your life after the assault?
Kourtney: After what he did to me, he was put out of the house. I didn't see him again until my grandfather was in the hospital on life support. During that time, we didn't exchange words; however, his presence made me break down. I left the house and rode around crying for hours. I stopped at the ABC to buy alcohol in an effort to drink my sorrows away.
Did the assault have any effects on your romantic relationships? If so, what were they?
Kourtney: I believe it had some affects on my relationship. It is very hard for me to trust people. I often had flashbacks, if I was touched a certain way, especially if I was sleep. If I felt uneasy I wouldn't say anything. I would let my anger build up until I exploded, since I didn't discuss my past with my boyfriends.
What tactics did you use to cope with the molestation? Were they conscious or unconscious? What were the long term effects of this particular coping mechanism for you and those around you?
Kourtney: Honestly, I just starting to cope. So I can't tell you exactly what I did.
Who was the first person you told about what happened to you? Why that person? When did you tell them? Why then? How did they respond?
Kourtney: The first person I told was an ex boyfriend from college. He was there when I ran into my rapist and when I broke down. I had no choice but to tell him. He was very supportive and angry at the same time. He wanted to fight my rapist thinking it would help, but I know it wouldn't. So he just talked to me until I felt better.
Recently you created a site called www.through-the-storm.com, tell us the purpose behind the site? What made you decide to go public with your story now?
Kourtney: I decided to go public when my story after my rapist contacted me and decided to move next door to my grandparents. I felt like I was being tortured. The night he contacted me I lost it all over again. I cried uncontrollably, until I told myself to pray and God spoke to me.
Do you feel your website will be enough healing for you or have you sought out other means of therapy?
Kourtney: I believe my website will be enough, but if it isn’t, I will seek out other help. I want to be married and have children one day. I don't want this effecting me for the rest of my life.
In many situations when someone is sexually assaulted, that person either becomes withdrawn or promiscuous? Which were you? Why do you think you chose that route?
Kourtney: I was withdrawn. I am a tomboy and spent most of my time hanging with boys, yet after the rape, I couldn't. In college, I started letting go and hanging with males again, but I didn't sleep with them. I was very vocal that if they ever tried to force me into sex, I would kill them.
Obviously, you didn’t allow that ugly situation to stop you from accomplishing goals. I mean you graduated college, and now you have a career you love. If you could go back in time, what would you do differently in reference to this situation and why?
Kourtney: Honestly, I wouldn't change a thing. I feel like now, I am growing from my hurt. I used my hurt to drive me to become better. I hope I can help other females realize that they don’t have to be promiscuous due to what happened. I also want them understand that they don’t have to hate all men either. I think what happened to me was predestined. God knew I would use it to better myself and to help others.
Do you feel like your perpetrator should have been prosecuted? Why or why not?
Kourtney: YES! Of course I do. It wasn't until recently that I found out he has more victims. I felt like it was my fault as a result of me not going to the police and pressing charges. If I had, other girls wouldn't have been hurt or have had to suffer. Then I realized that we have all failed each other in not speaking out.
Have you chosen to exclude any parts of your story? Why?
How would you rate your functionality from then to now? What’s your motivation?
Kourtney: Now I would say I have grown a lot. I have become more understanding of what happened. I use my past to help me better my future. I also notice that I speak more about it and people don't judge me. They actually are happy I speak about it. I feel like because I have opened up it has bettered my relationship.
I’m sure that you’ve done tons of self-reflecting, what have your learned about yourself. How do you feel you’ve grown since you came forward with your sexual abuse?
Kourtney: I learned that I am a strong individual and that I won't let my past or others bring me down.
Do you think that suppressing the assault and being silent about it, helped or hurt you?
Kourtney: It hurt. Suppressing the assault caused a lot of pain, hurt and anger. It caused me to not trust people and question everything they did.I lost what I thought at the time were amazing relationships, until I later understood that those individuals were not meant for me. I lost relationships, since I wasn’t able to communicate with them about my past. When I did, it scared them off. They looked at me as a rape victim instead of a normal human being.
What words of encouragement and recommendations would you give to a young lady or woman who has chosen to remain silent about sexual abuse?
Kourtney: Shatter the Silence. Speak up and out about your abuse. Once you do, you will understand the door God has opened for you.
This is for the one who has endured or who may still be enduring great suffering at the hands of an abuser. I hope you understand that it’s not your fault and there is nothing you did to warrant such violation. You are sacred, valuable, and lovable. You are beautiful and worth more than anything you can ever imagine. I need you to know that I’m so very sorry that you have had to go through what you’ve gone through or are still going through. I wish I could swoop in and carry you away from all of your pain and sorrow. But since I can’t, I pray that you channel your inner strength and seek the refuge you need to be safe. Though your situation is hard to bear and this torment has left an imprint in your spirit forever, there is beauty waiting for you. If you believe in something greater for yourself, and never give up on yourself, you'll find that you are a conqueror. I want you to know that you are not alone. I, too, was almost sexually assaulted twice while I was in elementary school. I was neglected, left to feel invisible, and unwanted. I felt unappealing which left me to question my worth, even into adulthood. I’ve been depressed and I’ve felt like disappearing, but I’m still here. I am determined to win against anything negative that tries to destroy me. I know that I am here for a purpose and I’m committed to myself. You too can find your place in life and overcome this. You will never forget and from time to time, you will be haunted by the ugly occurrences in your life, but you have power over how beautiful those thoughts turn out. Go out and tell your story. Scream to the top of your lungs, because contrary to what you’ve been told, you have a voice. Let the world hear your voice. You’ve earned your platform, now take the world by storm. You are amazing. Hold your head high and don’t you be ashamed. The person(s) that violated you should be the one(s) wearing the shame. If you are reading this, you are a survivor, but how you survive beyond your circumstances is in your hand. Never let go of the fact that if you can actually love yourself, you'll never be without love.(This letter is from my book, "Breaking Point".)
Treka L. House
Please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE (4673) for free, confidential 24/7 care, if you or anyone you know has been or is still being sexually assaulted. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. For more information, searchwww.rainn.org.